Nobody questions the need for sales coaching for new hires, to bring them up to speed on your value proposition, brand messaging, and the details of your solution. The release of a new product version could also be a trigger for a new learning or coaching module. According to our own research, 96% of sales professionals agree that sales coaching can have a noticeable impact on performance.
But there are so many ways to slice up enterprise’s coaching needs – for example coaching at different points in the seller’s career is one way to slice it, or you can break it up by target market or product.
But in this blog post we are going to look at how you can improve sales coaching for every state of the sales cycle. Of course each company’s sales process is different, but in tech companies, there tends to be a certain high level flow that just about every type of sale goes through, and that is: discovery, proof of concept and negotiation/ procurement.
Today, it’s a given that you need to offer different marketing content throughout the different sales stages, and the actions of sales representatives are no different. They need different coaching programs to help them succeed at each stage of the sales funnel.
In the early stages of the sales funnel and the customer relationship, knowing how to do a discovery conversation is crucial. It can save weeks of time wasted on an unqualified lead, and it can also help fasttrack a prospect whose needs are a perfect match for a product or solution your company offers. Sellers need to be able to discover the prospect’s needs and collaborate with them to explore the possible solutions, and use this time to find out who else will be involved in the sales process.
It’s a delicate process, because the salespeople need to encourage the prospect to articulate their pain points and realize what their needs are, but without answering for them or influencing their replies. The temptation is always to jump right into selling, so sales employees need to be coached to resist it.
Sales coaching for the early stage of the sales funnel involves practicing asking questions the right way, spreading them out across a conversation, and listening actively to the answers. Sales employees need to be taught the desired outcomes of a discovery call so they can lay the foundations of a trust relationship.
Once you’ve made it past the discovery stage, the middle of the sales process typically includes the all-important proof of concept (POC). Sales engineers will typically be more involved at this point, and also need to receive sufficient sales coaching. While SEs may be strong in terms of product and competitor knowledge, soft skills are equally important. It’s important for your sales engineers to be trained in nurturing the connection and managing relationships with qualified prospects.
Sales engineers need to walk the fine line between sharing the capabilities of your solution and demonstrating how they address the prospect’s specific pain points, and still listening for unaddressed needs and ways that the solution can be tweaked to resolve them.
Sales coaching for the middle stage of the sales funnel requires knowing how to define the objective of a POC, use it to tell a narrative rather than simply run a demo, and still ask targeted questions that help propel the prospect forward to the next stage in the funnel.
When you make it to the end of the funnel and a purchase is finally in sight, it’s still too early to breathe a sigh of relief. But the sales process isn’t over yet. Your salespeople and sales engineers who have successfully nurtured and guided the lead to this point still have to handle negotiation and the procurement process.
Negotiating procurement requires its own set of skills, and if you’ve been focusing on training sales employees to ask questions and nurture a relationship, they might not be very good at negotiations. They need to know how to validate your pricing against other alternatives, including the alternative to do nothing. Ideally they will know how to reaffirm your value proposition, and how to present your solution as a complete package that operates as a unit, so that the prospect doesn’t decide to just purchase an individual segment at a much lower price.
It’s equally important to know how to set up your potential buyer to be a happy and loyal repeat customer, by communicating best use practices, maintenance needs, and offering follow-up training and bundled setup packages.
Each stage in the sales funnel has its own challenges, and most sellers that excel at one stage may not have the knowledge or confidence to do the same at other stages. All of your salespeople can benefit from coaching that focuses on each of the funnel stages, and ideally have coaching modules available to them for the moment they need them. If your rep knows they are going into a tough negotiation, why not have them do a quick roleplay with their manager, watch videos of your best reps in a similar situation, or hold a simulated conversation with Jenny (Second Nature’s virtual customer and AI coach) that gives them tools for negotiation.
There are many different ways to organize your sales coaching learning modules, and by having them available for each stage in the sales funnel, you can help your sellers guide their prospects through the sales pipeline more quickly and effectively.
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